Antidepressants are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the country, to the tune of over 230 million prescriptions each year. While many patients benefit from antidepressants, some find them ineffective or don’t feel the reward is worth the side effects. Complaints such as headaches, nausea, weight gain, insomnia, irritability, and low sex drive are common among those taking medication to treat their depression.

Patients may feel stuck with the difficult choice of tolerating these side effects or tolerating their depression. However, there are non-pharmaceutical treatments for depression that can be as effective as antidepressants for some sufferers.

7 drug-free alternatives to manage your depression –

 

DIET

Changing your diet probably seems like the default answer to any health ailment. That’s because it’s so important! Start by putting more fresh foods on your plate. This will help reduce the amount of sugar and loaded carbs you eat, getting you off the blood sugar roller coaster.

Add quality Omega3 and Vitamin B supplements to your regimen. These nutrients are essential for your brain, particularly for the creation and use of serotonin and dopamine. These important neurotransmitters have a direct effect on your mood and well-being. Focus on these Bs – B-6, B-12, folic acid and inositol.

SLEEP

Your body MUST rest. Robbing the body of sufficient sleep makes it impossible for it to function properly. Make sleep a priority by setting a bedtime and sticking to it. Create a sleep routine to let your body know it’s time to rest. Even a simple routine like brushing your teeth, then changing clothes, then letting the dog out every night at the same time will train your brain.

Another big hurdle to getting to sleep – electronics! At least an hour before you start your sleep routine turn off the TV, smartphone, laptop, and even your e-reader. The blue light emitted by these devices keeps your brain from producing melatonin, the sleep hormone.

LIGHT

A lack of exposure to light can have negative effects on your mood. Your body requires light to make Vitamin D, which in addition to helping you maintain good bone health, helps to regulate your mood.

Go outside and take a walk. If you live in an area where daylight is at a premium or during winter months, invest in a light box to help you get the exposure you need to keep your Vitamin D levels healthy.

EXERCISE

Getting outside for that Vitamin D building walk also gets you started on your exercise. No one is suggesting you run the next 5K or become a triathlete; unless you want to of course. Even getting outside for that 10-minute walk will help release endorphins that will lift your mood.

You can also consider light weight training to keep your muscle mass up and bones strong. Activities like yoga and tai chi are a 2-for-1 bonus. They get you moving and provide the benefit of meditation.

ROUTINE

Become a creature of habit. A routine lets you anticipate activities and be active instead of reactive. Scheduling time for exercise, meditation, planning your diet, and activities you enjoy gives your life a rhythm you can depend on when things aren’t going so well.

Having a routine helps you to keep busy and motivated. The inertia of your routine will help you to avoid the trap of bogging down in indecision and doubt. However, routines still need to leave room for spontaneity. Change up some of your activities with new ones to stay motivated. Even just taking a new route on your walk or riding your bike instead of walking will keep your routine from becoming a grind.

TALK

Talk to a friend, counselor, doctor, or even your dog. Putting your feelings into words can loosen their hold on you. If you’re comfortable doing so, find a support group in your area or online.

One word of caution on online groups: Choose your online group carefully. Some informal online groups can actually make you feel worse when they are filled with nay-sayers or members who make a competition out of who in the group feels the worst. Any group should have the goal of making its members feel better about themselves.friends chatting

Maybe most importantly, talk to yourself. Practice positive self-talk. Think of yourself as a trusted friend. Speak to yourself the same way you would a friend who was feeling the way you are. You would never tell Sally she was lazy and should snap out of it. Don’t speak to yourself like that either!

GOALS

Setting goals may be the most important tactic of all. By putting the positive changes you want to see in your life into words, then into action you disrupt the cycle of despair. Give voice to the good things you want to see in your life. Plan the steps you need to take to get them. Even if you’re goal for today is simply to get out of bed, it’s the start to something better.

Putting the items on this list into action list starts by you setting a goal. Here are a few suggestions for starting your list of goals.

Goal #1 – Add more Omega3 and fresh fruit to my eating plan
Goal #2 – Get 8 hours of sleep most nights
Goal #3 – Walk 15 minutes each day, ideally outside
Goal #4 – Make a date with a friend
Goal #5 – Find a yoga class to attend once a week
Goal #6 – Tell myself good job each time I meet even the smallest goal

There is no wrong combination of tactics to attack your depression. Even if antidepressants medication is the right choice for you, each of these strategies can help you to live a healthier, happier life. Just take it all one step at a time and celebrate every victory, no matter how small.